June 14, 2017
The Library of Congress has announced that Tracy K. Smith is the new U.S. Poet Laureate. Robin Desser, Vice President, Editorial Director, Knopf, commented: “All of us here at the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group are thrilled for Tracy, and for the role she’ll play in our country as Poet Laureate. She will make a distinguished Laureate, bringing her unique
passions and perspectives to the position, as she has to all her work: as a literary artist; as an advocate of fellow writers; and as a teacher, daughter, mother, sister, and friend.”
The 22nd poet to hold the Poet Laureate position since it was created in 1937, Ms. Smith is currently the director of Princeton University’s creative writing program, has released several collections of poetry (one of which, Life on Mars, won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry), and in 2015 Knopf published her first nonfiction work, an acclaimed memoir, ORDINARY LIGHT
, which was a National Book Award finalist. Ms. Smith’s coming-of-age story intertwines race, faith, and family relationships, reads like poetry and, though a memoir, contains poetry within its pages.
Here is an excerpt:
Often, that spring, I found myself sitting in a reading room window with a book I ought to have been reading for class, but I also always had a black sketchbook into which I’d begun writing lines of my own. Sometimes, I wrote the same stanza over and over until something was unlocked and I could move forward. Once or twice, I’d stopped mid-poem, altogether stumped, and started a letter to myself in which I’d describe whatever it was I was having trouble getting into language. . . . Sometimes all of the watching and listening and waiting finally gave way to a poem.